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How Does Choosing Running Shoes Change As We Age?

How Does Choosing Running Shoes Change As We Age?
Heading out of transition for the run at the Eagle River Triathlon near Anchorage, Alaska.

After beginning to train for my first triathlon, I purchased a pair of running shoes from a specialty running store. I was happy with the shoes and the experience. I was also pleased to have learned through this fitting that a wider shoe (2E) is a better fit for me than is a standard width.

However, after that first purchase, I started shopping for shoes online, partly for convenience. I was working full-time and did not relish shopping during the precious hours outside of work.

Online shopping allowed me to take advantage of sale prices which I was sure could not be matched by brick & mortar businesses that sold shoes. (I am now convinced that this was wrong.)

For these purchases, I used internet resources, such as the shoe finder apps and calculators on the websites of some manufacturers, to select specific brands and models of shoes.

Questioning My Process for Selecting Running Shoes

Recently, I came upon a Silver Sneakers post titled 5 Steps to Find the Right Workout Shoes. The article included some new – at least for me – suggestions for lacing and tying running shoes based on foot shape, selecting socks, and breaking in new shoes.

The author’s information was useful. However, comments from the post’s readers were even more enlightening. The author stressed the point that shoes should be comfortable. Meanwhile, the readers highlighted how often shoes did not fit properly or were uncomfortable.

I had to stop and think about how I would go about selecting my next pair of running shoes. What was the most effective way to find them? And, did my needs in a shoe change with age?

Does Age Matter? Yes & No!

I asked Kurt Decker, an avid runner and General Manager of TC Running Company, if he has observed an effect of age on shoe selection.

While, in his experience, the age of the runner is not a specific factor in choosing a running shoe, he has seen some tweaks that runners tend to make with age. The two major changes are:

  1. Increasing the amount of cushioning in the shoe and
  2. Increasing the width of the shoe; feet tend to become wider, or splay, with age and more miles of running.

“Aging is like so much in life – it’s different for each of us.”

Terry VanderWert

The Running Store Approach to Choosing Shoes

Even before reading the SilverSneakers article, I had started to question the online tools I had used for selecting shoes.

Every time I used a particular calculator, a different model of shoe would be recommended even though I had given the same answers to the questions. Besides, how could static tests of balance and bending account for dynamic movements during running?

I decided to visit the local TC Running store to experience their fitting process. When we first met, I told the salesperson, Travis, that I was doing research for a Senior Triathletes post. As a result, he was kind enough to explain the process and shoes in detail.

Step 1: Evaluating a Current Pair of Slightly Worn Running Shoes

I have read that the wear pattern on a current pair of running shoes paints a picture of the owner’s running form. Therefore, I brought along a pair of shoes that were the most worn yet still being used for running.

Travis asked if the shoes had been used exclusively or nearly always for running (which they had been) or for other non-running activities such as walking around my home or office. Running creates a unique set of movements and stresses and, therefore, wear pattern.

He pointed out that while conventional wisdom involves inspecting the heel for its wear pattern, the more important area to inspect is across the width of the shoe under the ball of the foot. The uniform wear on my shoes pointed out that I have a fairly neutral gait and foot strike. He was also able to see a small but minimal effect of asymmetry in my ankles.

A moderately worn pair of running shoes. We used these as part of the process for choosing new running shoes.

Step 2: Checking My Gait Without Shoes

Before choosing a single pair of shoes, Travis had me walk with socks but no shoes across a hard surface. He observed my movement as I walked about 10 yards away from and then back to him.

From this, he selected three pairs of shoes based on the level of support he judged that I needed.

Step 3: Observing My Running Gait

Next, I tried on shoes from two manufacturers. The shoes represented two different technologies for support of the foot during running.

I did not try the third pair; I was not planning to purchase shoes that day and did not want to keep Travis from ‘paying customers’.

The first pair I tried were light gray Brooks Adrenaline 19 with GuideRail technology. GuideRails, new with this year’s models, provide support through, as the name implies, rails (rods) molded into the shoe on each side of its heel.

The second shoes, an olive green pair from New Balance, provide support through stiff foam along the edges of the shoe from the heel to middle of the arch.

I jogged about 10 yards away from and then back toward Travis in each of the pairs while he observed me. His conclusion was that both pairs appeared to provide the required support.

Both shoes were extremely comfortable and nice looking. They surely made me want to buy a pair, though I resisted the temptation since I didn’t need them yet.

Brick & Mortar or Online?

I am much more likely to purchase from a brick & mortar store, like TC Running Company, that specializes in running shoes than from an online store.

As near as I could tell from the discussions, the prices from TC Running are comparable to those from online sources. For the price-conscious shopper, TC Running also offers ‘last year’s’ models at discounted prices, just like the online stores.

Even if the prices were slightly higher, I would be much more confident in the selection of shoe based on a dynamic evaluation of my running form than from a static-only (at best) assessment with the online stores.

If the Shoe Fits, You Will Wear It

Most runner’s shoes are selected after trying on several pairs of shoes to find a pair that provides the balance of support, fit, and comfort. The same process for determining the right shoes is used for all ages, even if the outcome in terms of the specific shoes that are selected changes with time.

Remember: Shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable when running are much more likely to get used.

Leave Your Comments and Questions Below

Where do you buy your running shoes?

How, if at all, have you found your shoes to change with age?

Please share your thoughts below.

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How Has Your Training Changed After Age 50?

How Has Your Training Changed After Age 50?
How does training for a triathlon swim change as I age?
Recently while skimming my email inbox, an article titled “5 Training Tips to Help You Run Strong As You Age” caught my attention. What really caused me to read further was the first part of the tagline: “Getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop running”. Judging from the comments that followed the article,  the author disappointed several readers when they realized that his definition of age differed from theirs – he is 40 years old.   It is common to generalize training plans, dismissing the age effect. Most questions I receive from visitors to Senior Triathletes are from those looking for advice on triathlon training for those of us 50 and over.  Missing from websites, blogs, and books about triathlon training is age-specific training information. Being over 50, we deal with issues that those younger seldom need to consider.  For example, a short time ago, RL posted the following on the Senior Triathletes Facebook page:

“Any of you doing tris/IMs after total hip replacement?  Got a THR 4 weeks ago – thought I would switch to aqua bike – been reading about people running post THR – still seems like a bit of a gamble with respect to increased risk of needing a revision compared to low impact activity.  Thanks for any comments.”

I doubt that the general triathlon sites answer questions about training and racing after joint replacements.  Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question with authority; I do not have the proper training. That’s why I am writing this post.

I Need Your Experience With Triathlon Training After Age 50

We, the age 50+ triathlon community, will appreciate your comments on the following:
  • Have you used or are you using a triathlon training plan specific to your age group or even for those age 50 and over?
    • Are you aware of such training programs and, if so, what have you heard about them?
  • What have you learned about training as you age?
    • What are the main changes you have made in your training?
  • How has your training for swimming, biking, and running changed as you have aged?
  • As someone age 50 or over, how do you advise someone ages 50, 60, 70, or even age 80 to train for a longer race?  For example, how does a person our age who does Olympic distance triathlons train for an Ironman?
  • Are you or someone you know able to answer training questions like that from RL (above)?
  • What can we do to achieve the goal of Senior Triathletes being a valuable resource for information, besides inspiration, for beginner and intermediate triathletes age 50 and over?

Please Share Your Comments About Triathlon Training After Age 50

Please add your comments and questions in the Comment section below or email us at seniortriathletes@gmail.com.. Also, please take a look at the questions and comments from your other Senior Triathletes.
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8 Changes in Exercise for Seniors Over 70

8 Changes in Exercise for Seniors Over 70
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

By Amanda Turner, Contributor

After 30, inactive people can lose 3% to 5% muscle mass per decade, according to WebMD. Exercise for seniors over 70 can help maintain good health and slow down this loss. If you’re wondering what exercises will be suitable for you as a senior over 70, here are eight workout routine-related adjustments you can consider.

1. Exercise regularly

To get the best benefits from exercise, it’s important that you do it regularly. Five days a week is a good starting point for moderate activities and three days for harder workouts.

2. Strength exercises (bodyweight vs. lifting weights)

Start with bodyweight exercises. Once, you’re able to handle your bodyweight, only then consider lifting weights, says trainer Meghan Kennihan. She uses exercises like squats, pushups, bicycle crunches, etc.

Work on all the major muscles of the body at least twice a week. Try to complete at least one set (up to 12 reps) of each strength exercise. Besides going to the gym and lifting weights, you can also build strength with yoga and doing the harder digging jobs in your yard.

3. Aerobic activity (moderate)

Choose one or more exercises that require moderate effort on your part. Some options include walking and riding a bike on flat surfaces. If you aren’t big on these activities, consider joining and ballroom or line dancing group or cutting your grass with a lawnmower. Go for a daily limit of at least 30 minutes and a weekly limit of 150 minutes. Divide your daily activity into separate sessions if that works best for you.

4. Aerobic exercises (hard)

If you can handle high-intensity workouts, substitute the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity for 75 minutes of vigorous activity. There are a few ways you can go about this. Start to jog or run or ride a bike in a hilly area. If you like racket sports, considered playing singles tennis. The more energy-intensive types of dances are another option.

5. Mix moderate with hard activity

If your preferences for the intensity of exercise change often, consider a mix of the two approaches. Remember that one minute of vigorous exercise equals two minutes of moderate activity.

Exercise routines for seniors over 70 can include a mix of structured training and getting out with friends and family.
Exercise routines for seniors over 70 can include a mix of structured training and getting out with friends and family. Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash.

6. Mobility (bike vs. treadmill)

By age 75, about 33% of men and 50% of women do no physical activity, says CDC. And, staying sedentary for long periods hurts health. But, staying mobile has its own challenges for people with balance issues and joint pain. For its increased safety, using a stationary bicycle or treadmill can be a better choice compared to biking outside.

7. Flexibility (full-body vs. muscle group)

When stretching to stay flexible, try to incorporate full-body multidirectional movements instead of isolating a muscle group, says strength and conditioning specialist Rocky Snyder.

8. Good environment

Your workout environment, both the people and the surroundings, matter when it comes to staying healthy. Ensure that your overall health remains in top condition by maintaining the health of your home environment.

Amanda Turner is a freelance writer and a recent graduate who is taking some time to build her writing portfolio and explore her passions through writing. 

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The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story

The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story
Biking in the land of Genghis Khan.

At age 57, senior triathlete Laurent Labbe continues to prove both to himself and others that he is young in heart and body by competing in Ironman triathlons.

But there is more to his story than a personal enjoyment of endurance sports. Laurent has found a way to engage his family, using triathlon to build relationships with his children by training and participating in races with them. See Reason 3 of “15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons”.

It Started With Swimming and Biking In The Alps

As a child growing up in France, Laurent Labbe developed a love for the outdoors and for swimming through holidays and vacations with his family in the Alps and central mountains of his home country.

In his early 20’s, he was introduced to mountain biking. His attraction to mountain biking led to rides in many countries throughout Europe, including France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Belgium.

Then in his 30’s, Laurent began running. In addition to enjoying endurance sports, he found it easier to run than bike while traveling around the world for work. This led to him completing the Paris marathon twice.

“The best run of my life” came as part of a work-related team building exercise in the Gobi desert. One of the activities involved walking more than 30 km (18.6 mile) each day during three days. On the last day, Laurent decided to run, instead of walk, in the desert. Starting at 5 am, he completed a 22 km (13.7 mile) run with a GPS and headlight to guide him in the pre-dawn.

“Running across the dunes in the fresh air and with the sun rising was magic, so beautiful”. 

Transition to Endurance Multisport

During this time, he also connected with a group at work who competed in races involving biking, running, and kayaking; one form of triathlon today.

In 2011, Laurent and a friend participated in the King of Grassland race in Inner Mongolia. This three-day endurance race was across grassy hills and fields populated with herds of sheep and horses and consisted of:

  • Day 1: 60 km (37.3 mile) mountain bike,
  • Day 2: Full running marathon (42 km/26.2 miles) in the morning and 45 km (28 mile) mountain bike in the afternoon,
  • Day 3: 100 km (62 mile) mountain bike.

Laurent described this race as an “exhausting but amazing experience”. In fact, they completed this race two more times in the following years. However, when King of Grassland was canceled during years of drought, Laurent and his friend decided to look for another race.

Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the beach in front of the swim course at the Strongman All Japan Triathlon.
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the beach in front of the swim course at the Strongman All Japan Triathlon. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Discovering Ironman

His friend finally convinced him to register for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Taiwan half Ironman held in March. It was time for another bike – a carbon fiber road bike.

Training for the race, especially for the bike leg, was a challenge. During this period, he was living and working in Shenzhen, China, a city of 13 million. He used the commute to bike to and from the office ‘rain or shine’, somehow managing to survive the horrendous traffic, heat, and pollution.

“You cannot imagine how dangerous it can be biking 22 km per day in a city like Shenzhen.”

His training for this triathlon proved to be effective, remembering that the bike ride went well. Sadly, however, during the run he mistakenly forgot one of the three loops that made up the run. The DNF (did not finish) was frustrating, especially after the months of training.

“I was so upset that I missed the last 4 km of the run and received the DNF. I decided to run the final 4 km in the rain, just to be able to say I had completed the distance.”

Laurent Labbe on the bike at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen, China
Laurent Labbe at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

“Overall, I like the challenge [of long course triathlon]. Doing Ironman is magic and it was a new experience. I’m not young anymore but I like to try to do new things.”

Laurent Labbe

A Family Affair

With this experience in long course triathlon, Laurent was hooked.

To illustrate just how much he was smitten by this new challenge, Laurent completed Ironman 70.3 Bintan in Indonesia (August 2017), Ironman 70.3 Thailand (November 2017), Ironman Colombo in Sri Lanka (February 2018), and The Strongman All Japan Triathlon in Miyako-jima (April 2018) – four Ironman distance races within a year.

It was also during this period that Laurent involved two of his sons. His then seven-year-old son competed in the IronKid event that was part of the Colombo, Sri Lanka half Ironman. Then, his oldest son, age 30 at the time, joined him in the Japan race.

To top it off, his daughter was in Japan to cheer on her father and brother. She also caught the ‘triathlon bug’ and shortly thereafter began to train for her first triathlon.

Laurent acknowledges that he is “very lucky to have a wife who supports all of this travel, cheering me on and helping wherever possible”.

Favorite Ironman Triathlons

The races involving his sons have been his favorite so far.

Of the Strongman All Japan Triathlon held on a small island called Miyako-Jima, Laurent noted “I never saw a race with so many people along the road encouraging racers. I think every inhabitant of the island – young kids, school-age kids, old people, disabled people, hospital people, everyone – was on the road from the first competitor to the last one. The course was beautiful and challenging, especially for the bike. And, the organization and volunteers were exceptional.”

Ironman 70.3 Bintan was second favorite, again because of the venue – biking around the island and a beautiful run around the lake – and his younger son taking part in the kid’s race.

Laurent Labbe and son on the final dash to the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Bintan, Indonesia
Laurent Labbe and son on the final dash to the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Bintan. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Sport is good, for the body and also for the family.”

Laurent Labbe

Lessons for Ironman Triathlon

Laurent has learned some valuable lessons for others in our age group who may be interested in long course triathlon.

Training

  • Sign up for a race. There is nothing like it to motivate you to train.
  • Train seriously. Laurent trains as much as possible, using many opportunities (going to work; family outings; skipping lunch breaks) and always, ALWAYS with a heart rate monitor. Laurent says “The heart is our motor. I believe we need to listen to its rate, not staying too long in the ‘red zone’ (high rate) and train to make it stronger and more efficient in the endurance zone”. (Look for a future article on triathlon training, including with a heart rate monitor, especially for those age 50+.)
  • Do not force yourself or train beyond your limits.

“We need to take care of our body after age 50. I want to continue for at least another 15 years.”

Laurent Labbe
  • Train – and race – with a friend. Friends will push and give advice to each other.
  • Restart training almost immediately after, even the day after, the race. “If we stop training, we go backward. It also helps to have another race in sight.”

Triathlon Gear

  • Find the right shoes, the right ones for your body and running mechanics.
  • Properly fitting bike – any road bike can be used but aerobars can really help by making the ride more comfortable. Most important is to have the right bike ‘fit’ (settings of the seat, handlebars, aerobars, etc.) to avoid back or knee pain.

Racing

  • During the race, find a balance between pleasure, effort, and pain. Laurent recalls several times during the swim looking at the fish in the water and thinking how fortunate he is to be able to do such things. Enjoy each moment. Feel free to take time to shoot some pictures.
  • Race to finish. “There is no shame in stopping and walking during the run or even the bike if it becomes too hard. Remember that our goal is to finish a race, which is far more than 90% (or more) of people in our age range are able to do.
  • Be prepared to repair a flat tire. “Flat tires happen sometimes. On one race, it’s happened twice to me. Twice, because in the hurry, I replaced the bad one with a bad one. Fortunately, I had a good one in my pocket.”
  • Don’t rush the transitions (this is especially relevant to Ironman triathlons). “Keep cool during the transition. There is no need to rush. The effort on the legs during the swim and bike is so great that the legs can easily cramp. The best way I found to avoid cramps is to go slowly. Remove the wetsuit smoothly and put on the running shoes smoothly. And, be sure there is not a single stone in the socks.” 

Eating and Drinking During the Triathlon

  • Avoid drinking or eating food you don’t know during the race. Focus on water and your own food. Laurent indicated that he has become sick from bad drink or food before and during races.
  • “I learned from Chinese people to avoid drinking cold or ice-cold liquids, instead taking drinks at ambient (or ‘room’) temperature. These are better assimilated than ice cold drinks. For example, during a race in Dubai it was impossible to get ambient temperature water and I had a lot of stomach pain from drinking only cold water.”

After the Race

  • Always spend time after the race to think about the race. Identify the good, bad, and how to improve next time.

One More Thing

  • A healthy lifestyle is key. Laurent does not smoke or drink alcohol. With the help of his wife, he is also careful about the food he eats. “My Chinese wife is very picky on the balance of vegetable, fish, amount of oil. And, we never eat fast food.”

Just Getting Started

This year, Laurent will compete in Ironman Vietnam and the Ironman Championship in Nice, France with his oldest son. Before his first race, Laurent will be training with a younger son (8) for a kid’s triathlon in Hong Kong. And, during this time, Laurent’s oldest daughter (28) will finish her first triathlon in France.

He is also looking for a way to better connect with other senior triathletes in Hong Kong (where he is currently living) and the surrounding region to share experiences and maybe even train together.

Watch for Laurent to be competing in triathlon for many years to come, including ones in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, also be on the lookout for his children to appear in more races as the next generation builds on their father’s passion for triathlon. In fact, Laurent is looking forward to completing a triathlon together with all five of his children.

Questions? Comments?

Include your questions or comments below or send them to seniortriathletes@gmail.com.

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